Optimism as weather clears, search to resume near Vancouver for two men
The Canadian Press
Published Friday, December 30, 2016 1:27PM EST
VANCOUVER -- A team of about 20 highly trained searchers supported by two helicopters took advantage of a break in the weather over Vancouver's North Shore Mountains Friday to scour the rugged area for two men who have not been seen since Christmas Day.
Friday was the first day of ideal weather for the search, which has been hampered by heavy snow and strong winds that forced the temporary suspension of rescue efforts late Wednesday as the avalanche risk soared.
"Weather has been a real factor for us and I feel like we are finally getting a break. It's just too bad it has been so long since the call has happened," said North Shore Rescue Team spokesman Mike Danks.
The sun was shining on Dec. 25 when 43-year-old Roy Lee and 64-year-old Chun Lam set out for a day of snowshoeing at the Cypress Mountain Resort in West Vancouver, but conditions were already deteriorating that night when Lee's car was found in the resort's parking lot.
Teams from North Shore Rescue began a full search on Boxing Day but progress was limited because Lee and Lam did not leave word about their destination.
Danks said it was Wednesday before tips from other hikers narrowed the search to the Mount Strachan area, north of the resort.
"We are really focused on the North Strachan Creek drainage," Danks said Friday as a helicopter equipped with a specialized camera capable of detecting body heat prepared to fly over the area.
"The North Strachan Creek we have not been able to get into at all, so that is our first priority today. And also higher up on Strachan itself," he said.
The crystal-clear conditions early Friday showed signs of deteriorating by mid-morning, and Danks said searchers were still optimistic the men would be found safe in a snow cave, but were also ready to face a harsher outcome.
"I think we need to be realistic about survivability in these conditions and what is best for our own members moving forward," Danks said.
"Based on the outcome of today, we will have a meeting with the West Vancouver police and North Shore Rescue search managers and make a decision based on the last five days that we have had searching for these two individuals."
He said the meeting, if it was called, would be tough, but safety of the searchers remained a key concern.